Friday, 20 April 2018

"Chicago" A new novel by David Mamet (2018)

I nearly gave up - the first 40 odd pages are interminable Mamet-babble. However, verbal virtuosity becomes more meaty story-telling by Chapter 5. Chicago in the mid 1920's - the bustling newsroom of the Chicago Tribune, florists, funerals, gun-running, speakeasies, bordellos and nightclubs - is evocatively captured. Mamet co-wrote the screenplay for De Palma's "The Untouchables".

Mike Hodge is the guilt-ridden, Great War-obsessed central character; Parlow, the cynical friend and fellow-reporter. Peekaboo is the wise madam and confidante to Mike. There is a fascinating account of aviator Bessie Colman. Colourful minor characters - con artists, burglars, police officers - give the story more substance.
About two-thirds in, it loses pace again.
If you are expecting mob violence and gangland machinations a la "Boardwalk Empire", you will be sorely disappointed. Much like the New York reporter's long-winded anecdote about adultery and a hunting rifle - the resolution, when it finally comes, is a bit of a fizzer.
Though interesting, I was perplexed by the insertion of a lengthy anecdote concerning Darrow and the Leopold & Loeb court case in the final chapter.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

"A Game of Ghosts" John Connolly (2017) Charlie Parker #15

Even though "A Game of Ghosts" is the fifteenth Charlie Parker novel, Connolly's thriller is as compelling and intriguing as ever. It even surpasses his last, "A Time of Torment".
Who knew Family Guy's Providence, R.I. was a hotbed of secrets and corruption? So many fascinating characters; both old (the Collector and Eldritch, his ailing father; loquacious lawyer Moxie Castin; Charlie's daughter Sam - possessing untapped powers, communing with her half sister, Jennifer -  and of course, Angel & Louis) and new (the grotesque Mother and her insane son Philip; the Brethren, another arcane religious community - supported by the "Baptist" Bruckers; likeable nosy neighbour David Ferrier; psychic and discount furniture king Tobey Thayer). Thayer talks about exploring "...a crawl space between worlds."
Connolly's rich, atmospheric prose is sprinkled with punchy banter like:
" 'Vincent Garronne is dead.' said Mother.
'Ah,' said Louis. 'Was it sudden?'
'It was when he hit the ground,' said Philip."

I enjoyed Charlie's theory about why he preferred McCarthy over Lennon.

Saying this book is about just a ghost story is like saying "The Godfather" is just about Italian immigrants.
Parker talks about "darkness, and the creatures that move(d) through the honeycomb world."
In this world, Charlie's dead daughter, Jennifer sits on a rock " the departed flow past, an endless river of souls flowing into the waiting sea."
I get the feeling that the next book will deal more with Sam's powers. Are Charlie Parker's cases drawing to a close?  If so, he's going out on a high.
So much to savour in this book.

 As a side note, midway in the book Connolly talks about Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. This links with disgraced FBI agent John (Joseph) Connolly (Jr).

Thursday, 12 April 2018

"The Terror" AMC Episode 10, final episode - series review

The North West Passage

This ambitious undertaking is definitely worth nearly 10 hours of your time. A slow burn in parts, the production was more BBC than AMC.
More a historical drama and a tale of conflicting (and conflicted) characters facing unbearable hardship than a horror epic. One critic has said it's "Alien" in the Arctic - referring to Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi. (Scott was one of the executive producers, along with Dan Simmons, author of the 2007 novel).
While there are some genuinely horrific scenes - the diver's visions while inspecting the hull in Episode 1, the creature's attack on Blanky in Episode 5, Hickey's cannibalism, the frozen heads on the ice, the Tuunbaq's final confrontation in Episode 10 - it's the setting (computer generated or not) and the quality of the acting that makes you stick with this mini-series.
Jared Harris (so good as King George VI in "The Crown") is riveting as Crozier, Captain of "The Terror". Richard Harris is his dad, by the way.
The bleak rocky expanse was actually Pag (an island in Croatia).
The final mystical scene, with Crozier's heroic pose on the ice, was a totally satisfying way concluding the series.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

"Plebs" Season 4 Vale Stylax

A block of marble, a dopey builder and Stylax is written out of Season 4.
After Joel Fry's appearances in "Game of Thrones" and BBC/Netflix's "Requiem", he has bigger fish to ... fry...I'll move on.
It was a bit sad seeing only 2 plebs romping around the pillars in the opening credits.

Stylax's replacement, Jason (Jonathan Pointing) looks straight out of TOWIE, a bit colourless in the opening episode, but he might grow on me.
Aurelius/Water boy... er man (co-writer Tom Basden) is going to have more to do in this season.
Robert Lindsay has fun as a dodgy property developer (Cassius) with a soft spot for his pet turtle.

Opening a new pub in a former "latrina" should ensure more potty humour.
In coming episodes, looking forward to seeing the versatile Aisling Bea (Mineva, the observational comedian) and the return of Maureen Lipman (Landlady). Anybody remember ITV's wonderful "Agony" (1979-1981)?